After what feels like a lifetime of waiting, Netflix’s adaptation of Alice Oseman‘s graphic novel Heartstopper is officially here! In the very first episode, Charlie (John Locke) is stuck in a secret relationship when he meets and develops a crush on Nick (Kit Connor). So like anyone with a crush, he goes against his friend’s advice and joins the school’s rugby team all because Nick asks him to. Let’s not waste any more time and dive right in!
DISCLAIMER: This is a recap and, by definition, contains spoilers. If you haven’t watched Heartstopper yet, I suggest checking it out first! Also, be mindful that this series deals with heavy themes that will be discussed below.
“Meet” opens as the sweet Charlie Spring returns to school after Christmas break, excited when he gets a message about meeting Ben before classes start. We watch as he makes his way through the halls surrounded by others before sneaking off into the quiet and empty library just to find it empty. It turns out Ben wants to meet during their break instead, leaving Charlie sad. We don’t like Ben. Charlie returns to his classroom to find his new seat next to Nick Nelson. The two share simple “hi”s. Insert swooning hearts and butterflies.
Later, Charlie meets with Ben (Sebastian Croft) and their relationship becomes pretty clear. Charlie likes Ben and Ben is using him. The two share a kiss before Ben wipes it off and reminds Charlie not to tell anyone about the two of them. Did I mention how we don’t like Ben?
The next few days go on and we get a cute montage of Charlie and Nick bumping into each other, seeing each other in the hallways and sitting next to each other all with a simple “hi” between them. But the way Charlie’s face lights up at just the word makes us swoon. Who knew a two-letter word could have such a hold on our hearts? Eventually, the two meet up on their way to math and share more than the simple word.
Charlie catches Nick doing his math homework and offers to give him the answers. Nick doesn’t use him (cough cough Ben) to make his work easier and even tries to keep Charlie from taking his work. This leads to him accidentally drawing on Charlie’s hand, which he then makes into a smiley face. We’ve got heart eyes. But the moment is ruined when Ben walks by and Charlie tries to say hello. Ben, the colossal jerk that he is, pretends he doesn’t know Charlie! We are taking an official stance against Ben here.
“Meet” cuts to Charlie at lunch with his friend Tao (William Gao) and Issac (Tobie Donovan), where we learn that they were once a group of four that is now just three after their friend Elle (Yasmin Finney) transferred to the all-girls school after her transition. Her experience at the boy’s school was flooded with transphobia thanks to a close-minded teacher. Tao then catches Charlie gazing off at Nick playing rugby and refers to him as a golden retriever. He is confused about what the two discuss in form every morning and we get a cute scene where Nick’s pen explodes, the one right out of Alice Oseman’s graphic novel.
Tao warns Charlie to be careful around Nick. He is friends with the kind of guys who bullied Charlie last year and is worried that Nick might be just like them. Even if he is different around Charlie when he is alone, there is always the chance he could change his tune when his bro friends are around. Tao fires off a text to Elle, who is enjoying her lunch. He fills her in on the Charlie drama and asks how her new school is. She lies to him about having friends and looks like she is struggling to fit in with the other girls.
The following day, Charlie gets to school and meets up with Ben in the library. (Ugh, Bye, Ben!) Ben apologizes for pretending not to know him, but we don’t believe him. However, Charlie lets him kiss him anyway, but it seems like Nick is on his mind as he glances down at the remains of the silly smiley face from the day prior.
Later at lunch, Charlie hides out in Mr. Ajayi’s (Fisayo Akinade) classroom, though he swears he isn’t actually hiding. Charlie eventually opens up to Mr. Ajayi about Ben and how he feels. The little twerp won’t even acknowledge him outside of their secret meetings and expects him to be okay with it. Mr. Ajayi’s advice is for Charlie to talk to Ben and sort out what is going on, but Charlie has an ongoing issue with being honest about his feelings.
“Meet” jumps to after school where Charlie spots Ben kissing a girl before rushing off. When he is safely at home, he tells Ben that he doesn’t want to meet up anymore though won’t tell him why or what he saw. The following day, Charlie opens up to his sister Tori (Jenny Walser) about the breakup and his dream guy. You know, someone like Nick.
During the gym period, Nick catches sight of Charlie blowing the other runners out of the water. Look at him go! Afterward, he meets up with him at his locker and Charlie imagines that Nick is asking, opening up about being gay and in love with him. But really, Nick wants Charlie to join the rugby team. Charlie tries to back out, but Nick convinces him to give it a try. It is just a high school team, after all. Even his friends try to talk him out of it, but Charlie seems to be interested in joining.
Before practice, Charlie overhears the other guys talking about him in the locker room, insinuating that they should find someone else, but that doesn’t keep Charlie out. He continues with the idea of joining the rugby team and, during practice, even gets to tackle Nick a few times. The next few days flash by as we get a montage of the rugby team’s practices where Nick and the team teach Charlie how to play.
But he isn’t the only one going through a bit of a change or struggling. We get glimpses of Tao missing Elle and Elle trying to find her place in her new school. We also see Ben (ugh, BYE BEN), who doesn’t seem happy about Charlie’s choice to ignore him.
After one particular practice, Ben convinces Charlie to come to see him and talk. And Ben shows us why we absolutely hate him. Sure, Charlie (and we) understand that he is still trying to figure out his sexuality. But that doesn’t mean that he gets to ignore Charlie’s feelings or use him whenever he feels like it. Ben still doesn’t seem to care and tries to force himself onto Charlie before Nick steps in and sends him packing. He had followed Charlie because he was worried about him and good thing he did!
“Meet” comes to a close as Charlie and Nick go their separate ways home. Charlie struggles to find a way to open up communication between him and Nick and eventually settles on a message saying, “Thank you x,” which makes Nick smile. And us too. We can’t stop smiling right along with them.
What a way to kick off the series! The very first episode of Heartstopper was everything I needed to see in Netflix’s adaptation. Connor and Locke act well together and the supporting cast within the series is fantastic. As someone who has been out of high school for years, it was easy to find relatable things within each of them. We can’t wait to see where the rest of this story will take us and watch as everyone learns something about themselves along the way.
Let’s not waste any more time here and dive right into episode two!